This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
It was a first for all of them: Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Jerome Robbins. First time lucky. Well, actually no, luck has nothing to do with it. On the Town is a peach of a show, a show which positively hums along on the heat of its inspiration, a show rejoicing in the race of time, but regretful of its passing, a show which lovingly encapsulates those transitory moments seized and then lost amidst the impatient, pulsating heart and soul of the lonely city—the Big Apple. On two amazing nights in June last year, Michael Tilson Thomas and this starry cast brought New York City to the Barbican, London, and played out its energy and charms against a fantasy skyline straight out of Broadway stock. You can see it on video, you
can hear it right now on CD. But in some respects it was, rather like the plotline of the show, an experience for those nights only. Its unique atmosphere was never entirely going to make it 'down the wire' on to disc—does it ever? But it's been swell attempting to relive the occasion. No studio recording could even have come close.
... Cleo Laine gets to be really intimate with her bluesy nightclub song ''Ain't got no tears left'', one of three numbers dropped from the original show (Bernstein aficionados will know the tune from the ''Masque'' of Symphony No. 2, Age of Anxiety). You'll hang on every breath Laine takes. Many of the notes are threadbare, but who needs the notes when you've got instincts like hers. These tears dried up long ago and it hurts....
Which brings us to the major roles and, happily, no grave misjudgements in casting such as marred the composer's by now infamous West Side Story on this label. Mind you, you know you're in big-league production when you get Samuel Ramey delivering (gloriously) the Brooklyn Navy Yard Workers' ode to morning ''I feel like I'm not out of bed yet''. And Ramey was an inspired choice for Clare's monumentally boring boyfriend, Pitkin. His ''Song'', a masterpiece of arch formality, is very funny indeed. In performance, Tyne Daly's cab-driving Hildy knocked 'em in the aisles with her huggable personality. The voice has really come on since the Broadway revival of Gypsy, and in the first of her numbers, with Chip (the excellent Kurt Ollmann, honorary member of the Bernstein Rep), ''Come up to my place'', she uses what she has to terrifically spunky effect....
The three sailors, Gabey, Chip, Ozzie—Thomas Hampson, Kurt Ollmann, David Garrison—are just perfect. Not only are they well-matched vocally, but you could put them on any stage and never look back. Hampson's two big numbers—''Lonely Town'' and ''Lucky to be Me''—are handsomely sung with careful avoidance of that peculiarly 'operatic' articulation. The too, too English chorus didn't fool me in the latter any more than their well-mannered ladies did in ''Gabey's Coming'' but I was taken in by the squeaky Charleston girls of ''So long baby''. I'm sure Adolph Green approved of Garrison's Ozzie, and I'll bet Betty Comden felt much the same about Frederica von Stade's super-cool, dusky-voiced Clare. Together, they are the business in ''Carried away'' with von Stade doing just that with a high C nobody knew she had. She, of course, gets to launch the best number in the show—the bittersweet ''Some other time''. I sometimes wonder if a more perfect little song ever graced a Broadway show. It's Lennie's epitaph.
But finally to the real heroes of this dizzy enterprise: Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra. Or should I say Band—every last player a character, an individual. On the Town lives and breathes through its dance interludes: it struts and swaggers and bustles and broods; it's this music which gives the score its sassy New York tinta. The playing here is stunning, there's no other word. ''Times Square'' takes the composer's famous 1960 New York Philharmonic recording (Sony, 5/92) all the way for style and virtuosity with John Harle's soaring, throaty sax and rhythms so hot and tight and idiomatic that you'd never credit this wasn't an American band. Moody clarinets lazily evoke Edward Hopper's nighthawks, Maurice Murphy's superb first trumpet is always there, right inside the style and sound, leading his colleagues to a searing climax in the Second Act Pas de deux. The record's a winner for the interludes alone. Another of those discarded numbers is given separately as an appendix: this amusing little G & S inspired sorbet begins with the line: ''We don't know how the show is, but the intermission's great''. Take it from me, the show's better.
-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone [10/1993]
Works on This Recording
On the Town by Leonard Bernstein
Tyne Daly (Voice),
Stewart Collins (Voice),
Bruce Ogsten (Voice),
Marie McLaughlin (Mezzo Soprano),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone),
David Garrison (Tenor),
Kurt Ollmann (Baritone),
Samuel Ramey (Bass),
Evelyn Lear (Soprano),
Cleo Laine (Voice),
Meriel Dickinson (Mezzo Soprano),
Lindsay Benson (Baritone),
Nicholas Sears (Voice),
Frederica Von Stade (Mezzo Soprano),
Adolph Green (Tenor)
Michael Tilson Thomas
London Symphony Orchestra,
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1944; USA
Date of Recording: 06/1992
Venue: Live Barbican Center, London
Featured Sound Samples
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